DNS Reflection and Amplification Attacks! An Ultimate Guide

DNS Reflection and Amplification Attacks! An Ultimate Guide

In the ever-evolving world of technology, where the goal is to improve the lifestyle through digitalization, some enter this world with malicious intentions. Today, we will explore such malicious internet activities, i.e., cyberattacks that can wreck digital infrastructure. So, if you want to learn everything about DNS reflection and amplification attacks, how it works, how it affects systems, etc., and how to safeguard your online data and protect it from DNS reflection and amplification attacks, this article is for you.

DNS Reflection and Amplification Attacks

DNS is the Domain Name System, and it is a database with all the domain names and converts them to IP addresses stored to provide access to other devices to websites. Without this system, the technology and internet are of no use as DNS keeps the networks secure. Still, cybercriminals often attack this system through DNS reflection and amplification and destroy the stored data.

What is a DNS Amplification Attack?

Don’t worry if you are still confused about DNS reflection and amplification attacks. We are here for you. The DNS reflection attack, a.k.a DNS amplification attack, is a cyber security breach in which cybercriminals enter your DNS servers and amplify their attack code to destroy the functionality of your network and often make the data inaccessible for the user.

Moreover, a DNS amplification attack is a type of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Through this, attackers manipulate the vulnerabilities of a publicly accessible DNS server and launch a DDoS to bring down the internet infrastructure of the victim. Usually, the systems affected by this kind of cyberattack are the Domain Name System Servers.

Overview of DNS Reflection and Amplification Attacks

In the digital realm, no one is safe from cyberattacks, and this is why it is important to understand the workings of DNS reflection and amplification attacks to prepare yourself for a cyberattack beforehand. So basically, what attackers do is breach the internet services by corrupting a public DNS server, and as a result of an amplification attack, your internet infrastructure is disrupted. Moreover, DNS reflection and amplification attacks use your website or page traffic against you, and once it reaches a certain level, your system is doomed.

How Does a DNS Amplification Attack Work?

Your mind must be filled with loads of questions like how DNS amplification attacks work, how we can detect them, whether there is any way to protect public servers from cyberattacks, etc. Well, we are here to clarify all your confusion and provide you with an in-depth overview of DNS reflection and amplification attacks, so read ahead to understand DNS reflection and amplification attacks completely. Here’s what attackers typically do to disrupt a system.

  • First, they send fake requests of the target’s IP address to numerous DNS systems.
  • As soon as the DNS resolvers respond to these requests, a flood of data is sent to the victim’s system, slowing down the target website or even crashing the system.

The most common tactic hackers use to amplify and strengthen the cyberattack is by sending spoofed queries with forged IP addresses that generate more data in response to a simple query. This benefits the attackers in a way that the larger the request-response, the stronger the attack because it results in heavy malicious traffic flow toward the victim’s system. Moreover, submitting a request to a large number of DNS zones maximizes the amplification effect and successfully disrupts a system.

How to Detect a Malicious Cyberattack?

As attackers hide their identity by using forged IP addresses, that is why it is not easy to catch them. However, you can always detect DNS reflection and amplification attacks because they generate a large number of unwanted traffic with the same source.

Moreover, you can get help from the web-based scanning tools to detect any vulnerable open DNS server for you. Some of the detection tools or ways to identify and protect your system from DNS reflection and amplification attacks are

  • Open DNS Resolver Project
  • The Measurement Factory
  • DNS Inspect
  • Comprehensive DDoS Protection

All these free tools help in maintaining the traffic, access authorization, and scanning the entire DNS zone to identify any vulnerabilities and security issues. However, the best tool to cope with DNS amplification attacks is to use Comprehensive DDoS protection.

How is a DNS Amplification Attack Mitigated?

Anyone who owns a company, organization, or website can become a victim of DNS reflection and amplification attacks. This is why it is important to use mitigation methods and take preventive measures to protect the system from disruption. However, the authorities and companies have little to no DNS amplification attack mitigation options.

I am sharing a list of useful preventive measures that I use to combat such malicious cyberattack activities on our company’s server. Here’s what you can do to keep your online data secure if you have an open DNS server.

  • Increase your DNS server’s security to limit access.
  • Reduce the number of open DNS resolvers.
  • Close down all the unnecessary ports associated with your server.
  • Block unsolicited DNS replies.
  • Use a DNS-aware firewall to ensure all queries match the generated response.
  • Limit the number of requests submitted with the same source.
  • Use a DNS Anycast to divide the traffic to multiple DNS servers to avoid increased traffic load on a single server.
  • Threat intelligence services are beneficial in identifying and blocking vulnerable servers.
  • Use traffic signature filtres because they inspect every packet entering the network and identify the one that allows a repetitive structure.

All those mentioned above preventive and mitigation methods are really helpful in combating any malicious DNS amplification attack. The most common mitigation methods are tightening the security of the DNS server, limiting the request rate, and blocking specific DNS servers. However, still, the chances of a DNS amplification attack are never zero.

This is when a professional open recursive server maintenance organization comes in handy to block traffic that may hinder website access. These online tools are effective in preventing DNS amplification attacks as they scatter all the traffic coming from the same malicious source to different servers, so the attack will no longer be disruptive.

Moreover, it helps in balancing the load to keep the website running at a good speed and canceling the overwhelming interruption caused by the DNS amplification attack. Also, the DDoS mitigation system tackles all the DNS reflection and amplification attacks single handedly.


What is the difference between a reflection attack and an amplification attack?

In the reflection attack, the attacker uses a forged IP address and sends an information request to access the network. Anyone using User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) can be a victim of a DNS reflection attack. In contrast, an amplification attack overwhelms a website by sending high-volume malicious traffic from the same source and disrupting the network.

What is a reflective DNS attack?

A reflective DNS attack is a cyberattack where hackers generate and amplify malicious traffic to the targeted server or website by using a forged IP address. The high volume of incoming traffic overwhelms the server, and as a result, the website crashes or causes a system outage.

What is a DNS amplification attack an example of?

The DNS amplification attack is a type of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) in which attackers access the open DNS servers maliciously.

What is the purpose of a DNS attack?

The main goal behind a DNS attack is to gain domain name control through malicious ways. It is also known as DNS hijacking and Domain theft. The attacker either steals the owner’s login credentials or exploits a vulnerability in the domain system to get access or have complete control over a domain name.

The Bottom Line

Adapting the latest technology is important to flourish and become accessible to many people through websites. Although the digital world offers plenty of benefits, we can’t deny the fact that your data on the internet is never safe and can be attacked anytime. This is why all domain owners should understand DNS reflection and amplification attacks, how to handle these threats, and how to protect your internet infrastructure and internet stability from these malicious attacks.

In this article, we discussed everything you need to know about DNS reflection and amplification attacks and how to stay safe from a significant cybersecurity threat. I am optimistic after reading our article, you will be able to tackle security breaches more intelligently.


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